The square is built in a symmetrical rectangular shape. Its name has been changed a few times throughout history, different names like Republic Square, and Square of the Masses. The meaning of the name Plaza Mayor is "central square," and is a familiar name in most Spanish cities.
Plaza Mayor can hold up to 50,000 visitors. It was built within only 2 years, and was completed in 1617. Its length is 120 meters, and is 90 meters wide.
The building of the square was at the initiation of King Philip II, but only happened in the days of Philip III, King of Spain and Portugal in the 17th century. Plaza Mayor has always been used for public activities in the city. Even before the square existed in the soon-to-be Spanish capital, this square was a market for vendors, placed outside the walls of the fortress, which meant that the vendors did not have to pay taxes.
In the 19th century, the square became a main attraction, for a few events that took place here. There were celebrations, crownings, tournaments, religious ceremonies, and even executions, that were considered then public entertainment. Until today, many significant events in Madrid are held here with the Mayor, different artists, and the city's residents filling the square.
Around the square are a number of interesting points. Restaurants and cafes, though they may be expensive, are nice tourist attractions. If you want to save money and be with the locals, just walk around the small alleyways in the south-western area of Plaza Mayor.
In the south-western corner of the square you will see the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the plaza outskirts there is the San Miguel Market, a covered market offering a variety of products to sell.